Saturday, November 24, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 95 -- Jesus

by A.N. Wilson

Started: Nov. 24
Finished: Nov. 28

Amazon link: Jesus: A Life

Notes: 'Tis the season, right? Actually, I just finished this author's book on Tolstoy, and it came to my attention that the writer had actually written numerous biographies of historical figures, one of them being this one about Jesus. The approach, apparently, is to look at Jesus as a historical figure and not so much as a religious figure, which I find interesting. However, I'm a bit skeptical of how this author will approach the subject matter of Jesus. Wilson did a strong job of demystifying Tolstoy, so I'm wondering if he will try to do the same with Jesus. Then there is the fact that Wilson, now turned back to Christianity (I won't call him "born again" because that has social, even possibly political implications I'm not sure are appropriate), was an avowed atheist during the writing of this book about Jesus. Frankly, if he spends much of this book trying to debunk Jesus, Christianity, and religion in general, I'm likely to lose interest. It's not that I can't tolerate atheism or skeptical thought and writing, even appreciate them at times, but I find some of today's ardent, vocal atheists (with whom Wilson associates) as annoying as I do the overly rambunctious evangelicals. I simply want to study the subjects for intellectual purposes, not be talked down to by one side or the other. So, I'll see how Wilson handles this book and the historical figure of Jesus.

Mini review: I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the route the author took in his exploration of a historical Jesus. I felt he did jump to a few conclusions without evidence, but at least some of the time he would say something along the lines of, "here I am making a guess." He seemed to come down on the side of Jesus being a non-divine entity, a healer and religious figure of much ability and wisdom whose words have been distorted and changed many, many times throughout history. The author gives some evidence for this, but most of it is, in my opinion, not overly strong evidence. I'm not disagreeing with Wilson's conclusions, but I also am not agreeing with them. I think he would understand that, for in the end he portrays Jesus as such a mysterious and complicated figure that even the early church fathers had little idea with whom they had actually been dealing, that Jesus is practically unknowable, at least from a historical point of view. As far as how the Christian churches have dealt with Jesus over the centuries, I find much in agreement with the author, thus I quote Wilson here: "Few of the Christian Churches have ever viewed the teaching of Jesus with anything but contempt. And while Churches might think that they are returning to the teaching of Jesus it will invariably be found that they are pursuing a distorted version of one or two of his ideas while contradicting the others." I agree with those words. I could write a book on such myself, and perhaps some day I will, but for now I will not bore or frustrate the reader with my own thoughts and ideas, which change often enough, anyway. Wilson leans toward a Jesus who wanted others to think for themselves in order to become closer to God, and I tend that way in my own thoughts.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Regardless of one's beliefs, Jesus seems an interesting historical figure to consider. I've read a couple of fictionalized lives of Jesus that were interesting. Most were from a religious point of view but not overly evangelical. Like you, I don't much care for being preached at by either side.